Towards Greener Pastures: Farming after Brexit

Subjects: Food sovereignty

Towards Greener Pastures: Farming after Brexit

Whether you voted for Brexit or not, this is the moment to begin reshaping the food system in the UK. Our divorce could give us the opportunity to rid ourselves of a system of subsidies that serves a centralised system of production and distribution and that rewards only the largest and most chemical-intensive landowners.

When it comes to rules, we need to not only keep hold of but strengthen those that protect the environment, food quality, livelihoods of small scale farmers, animal welfare, wildlife, antibiotic reduction and localism. To trade with the EU we should obey all their present and future rules.  Instead of excluding farms of less than 5 hectares, they need to be treasured.  Rules that strangle small scale farms in red tape like the health and hygiene laws should only apply to the giant high tech factory farms and processors.

 

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Sadly the voice of the small scale producer and processor was drowned out by the neoliberal politicians and corporate lobbyists who want less regulation to facilitate unfettered international trade. This will push the farmers income ever lower in the cut throat competition with low valued currencies, more intensive crop, vegetable and animal production, cheaper labour,  ever more chemical intensive and antibiotic abuse in factory farms and tax competition.

In such a volatile global world, we need to protect the invaluable skills of farmers on our overcrowded island.  We urgently need to regulate to ensure the true cost of intensive production is reflected in the price of food, and until that time, we need to impose tariff barriers on imports to protect our last remaining real farmers.

70% of the world’s food is provided by small scale farmers on 25% of the worlds land.  To protect farmers globally, land grabs, mining, fracking and large scale dams should be a mistake of the past and trade treaties should be about protecting local food across the world.

 

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In the UK, farming generates £9 billion a year directly to farmers and contributes to the £100 billion a year food and drink sector. But this is of no real value if it isn’t doesn’t sustain high quality food, healthy soil (in the UK 3 billion tons of topsoil is lost each year) clean water and biodiversity. Presently these costs are externalised as the clean-up costs are not reflected in the price.  With trade tariffs farmers could be paid a fair farm gate price and so produce food with good environmental stewardship. Instead of carting food across the globe opening opportunities for fraud and waste, recipes should be traded between countries thus creating local jobs, safe local food, reducing food miles, vehicles and  greenhouse gasses.

The left and the right in politics need to unite to take back control of our food economy to revitalise our farming communities and ecosystems that sustain all life today and future generations.